Australian home market's first test of the year
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Australian home market’s first test of the year

It’s the first big auction day of 2024 as the gap between apartment and house values widens

By Bronwyn Allen
Fri, Feb 2, 2024 9:51amGrey Clock 2 min

The Australian property market will undergo its first major test tomorrow when 1,700 capital city homes go under the hammer on the first significant auction day of the year. CoreLogic economist Kaytlin Ezzy said it will be the second biggest start to February on record behind 2022 when 1,779homes went to auction. In the country’s two biggest auction markets, there will be 608 auctions held in Melbourne and 591 in Sydney.

Ms Ezzy said auction clearance rates weakened to below-average levels toward the end of last year and tomorrow’s event would help set the pace for the pre-Easter selling season and provide a timely test of buyer demand.

She added: This week’s results could help indicate whether the weaker selling condition seen towards the end of last year has persisted into 2023 or if sentiment has lifted with earlier expectations of rate cuts following [this week’s] inflation update.

Australia’s median home value moved higher for the twelfth consecutive month in January, up 0.4 percent. This follows an 0.3 percent uplift in both November and December. However, price performance is mixed across the capital cities, with Perth once again delivering outstanding growth at 1.6 percent in January. CoreLogic research director, Tim Lawless explained:The western capital continues to see housing demand outweigh supply, helping to push values 16.7 percent higher over the past 12 months. Despite that, housing prices remain relatively affordable compared with most capital cities, with the median dwelling value sitting just under $677,000.”

Adelaide home values lifted 1.1 percent in January, Brisbane prices rose by 1 percent and Sydney values moved up 0.2 percent. Conversely, Hobart home values fell 0.7 percent, Canberra prices dipped 0.2 percent and Melbourne declined by 0.1 percent.

Mr Lawless noted that house prices across Australia continued to rise faster than apartments. The price gap is now at a new record high of 45.2 percent. House values across the capital cities lifted by 0.5 percent in January, equivalent to about $4,800 in value, while apartments lifted 0.1 percent, or about $900 in value. “Since the commencement of the upswing, capital city house values have surged 11 percent higher while unit values are up 6.9 percent,” Mr Lawless said. It seems that most Australians are willing to pay a higher premium than ever for a detached home.”

Sales volumes remain elevated, with CoreLogic estimating 115,241 dwellings were sold over the three months ending January, which was 11.9 percent higher than the same time last year.Despite ongoing cost of living pressures, high interest rates, low consumer sentiment and affordability constraints, homes are still selling, Mr Lawless said. Housing demand has been buoyed by high migration, but also tight rental markets that have probably incentivised renters to transition towards home ownership if they can afford to do so.



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Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump

The city’s real-estate market has been hurt by high interest rates and mainland China’s economic slowdown

By ELAINE YU
Fri, Mar 1, 2024 3 min

Hong Kong has taken a bold step to ease a real-estate slump, scrapping a series of property taxes in an effort to turn around a market that is often seen as a proxy for the city’s beleaguered economy.

The government has removed longstanding property taxes that were imposed on nonpermanent residents, those buying a second home, or people reselling a property within two years after buying, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to revive a property market that is still one of the most expensive in the world, but that has been badly shaken by social unrest, the fallout of the government’s strict approach to containing Covid-19 and the slowdown of China’s economy . Hong Kong’s high interest rates, which track U.S. rates due to its currency peg,  have increased the pressure .

The decision to ease the tax burden could encourage more buying from people in mainland China, who have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s property market for years. Chinese tycoons, squeezed by problems at home, have  in some cases become forced sellers  of Hong Kong real estate—dealing major damage to the luxury segment.

Hong Kong’s super luxury homes  have lost more than a quarter of their value  since the middle of 2022.

The additional taxes were introduced in a series of announcements starting in 2010, when the government was focused on cooling down soaring home prices that had made Hong Kong one of the world’s least affordable property markets. They are all in the form of stamp duty, a tax imposed on property sales.

“The relevant measures are no longer necessary amidst the current economic and market conditions,” Chan said.

The tax cuts will lead to more buying and support prices in the coming months, said Eddie Kwok, senior director of valuation and advisory services at CBRE Hong Kong, a property consultant. But in the longer term, the market will remain sensitive to the level of interest rates and developers may still need to lower their prices to attract demand thanks to a stockpile of new homes, he said.

Hong Kong’s authorities had already relaxed rules last year to help revive the market, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront when buying certain properties, and cutting by half the taxes for those buying a second property and for home purchases by foreigners. By the end of 2023, the price index for private homes reached a seven-year low, according to Hong Kong’s Rating and Valuation Department.

The city’s monetary authority relaxed mortgage rules further on Wednesday, allowing potential buyers to borrow more for homes valued at around $4 million.

The shares of Hong Kong’s property developers jumped after the announcement, defying a selloff in the wider market. New World Development , Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development were higher in afternoon trading, clawing back some of their losses from a slide in their stock prices this year.

The city’s budget deficit will widen to about $13 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That is larger than expected, Chan said. Revenues from land sales and leases, an important source of government income, will fall to about $2.5 billion, about $8.4 billion lower than the original estimate and far lower than the previous year, according to Chan.

The sweeping property measures are part of broader plans by Hong Kong’s government to prop up the city amid competition from Singapore and elsewhere. Stringent pandemic controls and anxieties about Beijing’s political crackdown led to  an exodus of local residents and foreigners  from the Asian financial centre.

But tens of thousands of Chinese nationals have arrived in the past year, the result of Hong Kong  rolling out new visa rules aimed at luring talent in 2022.

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